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USA falls to Australia in Premier12 Tournament

@wboor
November 13, 2019

Team USA was dealt a shocking defeat and fell, 2-1, to Australia on Wednesday afternoon in Tokyo. Not only did the loss eliminate the Americans from gold medal contention in the Premier12 Tournament, but it also made the path toward qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics much more difficult. The

Team USA was dealt a shocking defeat and fell, 2-1, to Australia on Wednesday afternoon in Tokyo.

Not only did the loss eliminate the Americans from gold medal contention in the Premier12 Tournament, but it also made the path toward qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics much more difficult.

The Americans, who fell to 1-3 in the Super Round, need to finish better than Team Mexico (3-1) in the standings to qualify for the Olympics as the top finisher from both the Asia/Oceania territory (Australia, Chinese Taipei or Korea) and the Americas territory (Mexico or the U.S.) receives an automatic bid into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Mexico can clinch that berth with a win against Korea (5 a.m. ET on Friday), but if Mexico loses, the U.S. beats Chinese Taipei in its final game (10 p.m. ET on Thursday) and Chinese Taipei defeats Australia (10 p.m. ET on Friday), then the U.S. and Mexico would face off in the bronze medal game. The winner of that game would earn a spot in the Olympics.

If Team USA fails to qualify via the Premier12 Tournament, it will have another opportunity during the Americas Qualifier, which is set to take place in Phoenix in March. In addition to the U.S. and Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Canada will also be competing.

Tanner Houck, the Red Sox No. 5 prospect, got the start against Australia, but struggled with his command early. The right-hander walked two of the first three batters he faced and found himself in a bases-loaded jam before recording an out.

Houck gave up two runs in the first before settling down and dominating throughout the rest of his outing. After the rough first, the 2017 first-round Draft pick (24th overall) retired the side in four consecutive innings and ultimately retired 14 in a row to conclude his start.

Houck, who threw 46 of his 72 pitches for strikes, gave up two runs on two hits and two walks over five innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen.

A quartet of relievers combined to strike out six over four scoreless frames, but the U.S. offense was unable to take advantage of the eight straight zeros put up by the pitching staff.

Team USA didn’t pick up a hit until the fifth inning and didn’t score until Mark Payton’s solo homer in the eighth, one of just four hits on the afternoon.

The Americans put the leadoff man on base in the ninth -- something they did four times during the game -- but weren’t able to make anything of it as the next three batters were promptly retired.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.